October 1 2000

Subject: swim Forrest, SWIM!
Date: Sunday, October 01, 2000 4:06 AM

So there I was, it was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, and I was ruminating in the bow on the little fishing boat. Several of my JET colleagues were fishing, and the leathery old man was sitting in the stern, eyes twinkling as he watched us foreigners act like kids. My feet were gently kissing the ocean as the boat danced up and down in the swell, the sun was starting it’s gentle slide in the Japanese sea, but I had my hat resting on top of my sun glasses.
They had actually caught some fish. I was amazed, as the non-fisherman was up two to zero (the Aussie) to 1 (the fisherman). They multicolored and absolutely gorgeous. Nothing I could recognize, but the fisherman approved, he said they would all make for good eating at that nights party.
I didn’t want to go, it had been a long week. Too much work and learning and stress was cutting into my life. I was nursing a cut knee, black and blue thigh, and a bruised butt, compliments of speed and wetness and sheer forces and angles. My blood had been spilled, the streets of Naha had been blessed (stupid Tioga XC tires).

My back was covered in salt, and I could taste it as I licked my lips. I was somewhere out in the Okinawa Island chain, enjoying a weekend away from the city stink of Naha. Everyone was still animated from the sighting of the giant Mantra Rays that were playing around one of the small islands. We guessed their span to be around 6 feet, and they floated around our small boat, the tips of their fins would break the water and flash a white underside, unmistakable manta ray for “come in and play”. We obliged, scurrying about the boat, unpacking bags, tossing masks and fins, the boat rising higher in the water as four of us jumped in, (some more graceful then others).
We were near a small island that poked out of the water, sticking maybe 45 feet into the warm air. Green was abundant on the top, but the walls were a jagged black in color, hinting at isolation and solitude. Looking at the island from in the water, I could see it taper off, then plunge into the deep. There were coral reefs that fringed the island, but the deep blue of the ocean pulled at my eyes and I felt that I was going to slid into to the depths.
The water carried a muffled noise, and I looked up, the Mantras were around us, playing, checking out these uncoordinated white things in their world. One was coming towards me, its mouth was open, and it looked big enough to swallow me up to my shoulders. I fought the urge to swim as fast as I could, and simply watched. As it approached me it veered off, then around us into the blue. We chased the group, but the currents were against us and its black color caused it to dance in and out of the shadows from the sinking sun.
We surfaced, and the boat beckoned us, the wiry fisherman grinning at us, our friend on board laughing and smiling.

I hadn’t wanted to go. One of the first year JETs was having a party on his island, so everyone was invited. Three of us showed up, so with the host and his fiancee, we were five (two Hawaiians! We are taking over the world!). The host is familiar to you, he was the kicking in his sleep house guest from several typhoons ago. He lives on a small island, a two hour ferry trip away. I’d been told that his island was gorgeous, but I had a very long week. My Friday started at 0830 and ended at 0300 Saturday morning, somewhere in between, my bag was full of eighteen cans of beers and one of my drunk office workers had walked back into the bar, coconut in hand. He gave it gave it to me, and I carried for the remainder of the night. I was telling everybody that it was my new friend and that she’d make a lovely girlfriend.
One of the office ladies was leaving, so it was a fairway party for her. It was spread out over three bars and many hours. We ended up in a Beatles themed bar, where one of my bosses got on the guitar, and started jamming, the John Lennon looking proprietor also jumped in, and the six of us were treated to a nice little show. I was also eating the best Kaki Mochi I’d ever had. I actually liked it better then the tempura crab legs I had earlier. You know what you eat on tempura crab legs? THE WHOLE THING, shell and all. That’s some roughage for the system. No one can ever, EVER! pick on me about being fussy again.

I didn’t want to go, as this coming Monday is going to be long. I have to interview first year JETs for 20 minutes each. Just to make sure that everything is going well and that no one is being miserable. Should be interesting, I’ve heard thru the JET grapevine that lots of people are nervous about the whole thing. I’m going to calm people down by offering gum and Nestle Crunch bars.
But I went away, didn’t clean, didn’t pick up my laundry, didn’t go ride. But I swam with the manta rays and Sunday morning chased parrot fish around coral heads. Got a little sun, had some good red meat (finally!), and listened to wise old Okinawans talk about the stars and life and peace and death. Slept on the return ferry and capped the weekend off with good Italian food.
The laundry now calls to me, and I have to shower and shave away the weekend stubble, watching my weekend swill around the drain.
Enjoy.
Chris

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